Bart Scott joked that he's still hibernating and has plenty of rust to shake off during the Jets' offseason conditioning workouts.
"I ain't even woke up yet," he cracked. "I'm a shell of my real self."
But the chatty linebacker is aware things might not be the same this time next year considering the uncertainty surrounding the lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Scott admitted as much today, and took dead aim at the huge pink elephant in the room that not everyone wishes to acknowledge.
“We understand where we’re at, the place," he said this afternoon. "We may not have a season after this one. Rules and a new CBA, if something is worked out, could change the game as we know it. We have to be willing to put everything that we have into this season because it could be our last for a while. Definitely with that 30 percent turnover, this is going to be the last time a lot of us see each other.”
Scott, always one to speak honestly and bluntly, said many of his peers around the NFL were cognizant of potentially getting locked out by the owners following the upcoming uncapped 2010 season. Essentially, the writing has been on the wall for a while now and the players are mindful of what looms on the horizon.
"We’ve been preparing for this for two years," said Scott, who last offseason inked a six-year, $ 48-million contract that will pay him about $27 million over the first three years of the deal. "We all knew the owners were going to opt out, so we all have been making preparations for it. We pretty much know it’s a reality and we’ll be prepared for it.
"In the '80s, someone had to take that hit. Unfortunately during my time in the NFL, I’ll have to take that hit. But I have to make sure that I leave the league more secure for the players that’s coming behind me. Just like the guys that went out and ate that bullet and lost a year’s salary or whatever they had to do for us."
Besides changing things for those like RB/KR Leon Washington and WR Braylon Edwards, who would've been unrestricted free agents after four years of service normally, the murky CBA waters haven't led to many lucrative free agent contracts.
Save for Pro Bowl DE Julius Peppers, who signed a six-year contract worth $91.5 million with $42 million guaranteed with the Bears, no one has really cashed in this offseason.
There's a reason, Scott says.
"The owners know. The uncertainty of the future has affected everything," he said. "You have Julius Peppers, but you look at the rest of the contracts, they are going down and guys are playing it safe because they don't want to lock into contracts with guaranteed money that they have to pay for a player, and there’s not even a season. So everybody is mindful of that.
"And the stress for the players that were expecting to be free agents this year who have to wait another year ... [that's] another year of uncertainty, another year to prove yourself, another year where you can be injured and really lose millions of dollars. People have to be mindful of that."
Still, even with all that, Scott knows the lack of a new CBA isn't the only reason the Jets should feel they have to get the job done this season.
"There’s a sense or urgency because we have good team," he said. "We know we have good team and we don’t know how long we’re going to be able to keep all these pieces together. We have a lot of young ascending players [who're] going to want to get paid, and other teams are going to start bidding for their services. So we have to take advantage of the team while we still have it."